Friday, January 28, 2011

100 posts, time for a change?

That previous post was the 100th blog entry for Living In Paradise. Hooray! I think I will throw a party in celebration.

Thanks to everyone for reading. It's been a jolly good time and more adventures are on the horizon.

While eating dinner tonight with my fabulous girlfriend, we had to ask ourselves the exact date we moved here and started our successful stint on the rock. We each had our educated guesses but the concrete reference was the blog.

For a trip down memory lane, click HERE for the very first post.

Ahh, I was such an innocent person back then. So young and impressionable. Good times.

Then my beautiful baby proceeded to the back bedroom and started to rearrange all the furniture starting with the bed. I questioned her motive, offered very limited help and headed back to the office because of that deadline thing that always seems to get in the way.

"Don't trip and fall on your face when you get back," she said.

I routinely have to tiptoe into a dark bedroom at night because I work late hours and when I'm not working, I usually clock in at the local saloons. It's like when you were a teenager and you had to sneak back into your parents' house, only now I use the front door and keep strong drink in the refrigerator.

I may rearrange all the furniture in the living room tonight while my lady gets her beauty sleep. You know, throw her a curve ball. We'll see how many saloons I stop at on the way home and let Bourbon dictate the rest.

No joke, this is what my fridge looked like the other day. I keep the hard stuff in the freezer but check out the variety pack I got going here. I'm also pretty solid in the mayo and grape jelly department.

Who takes pictures of the food inside their refrigerator? I do. Big whoop, wanta fight about it?

Thursday, January 27, 2011


It was a long weekend full of Martin Luther King celebrations and all that jazz. Most three- and four-day weekends mean extra time off for common folk but for any sports writer, that means work.

The weekend was saturated with preseason basketball tourneys, Little League Baseball tilts and action-packed horse racing.

Journalists and bartenders work similar hours. How ironic?

When everyone had to come back to work and I finally caught my breath, it was time to get away. Get away from everything. I'm talking about camping.

I chose Neltjeberg because it's one of the best, most natural beaches on St. Thomas and you need a four-wheel drive to get there.

I've pulled similar stunts there.

Jerry (aka The Wolverine), Julie and Josh came out in the early evening to grill out. Check out that fire...

Their friend, Julia, came later. She didn't have anything else going on that night so she decided to camp out with me. That's her in the picture below. I'm actually pointing to something down the beach and not at her mouth. Some trick photography there...

It was actually the first time I had gone camping on St. Thomas since August and it was freaking awesome. The temperature was perfect, we kept the fire going all night and I slept like a baby.

I had an early appointment the next morning to get my car fixed so the sun provided a perfect alarm clock for me.

I also met two guys that were straight living at the beach. After re-hashing the story for other locals, it appears living at Neltjeberg is not that uncommon. I didn't get to see them but the guys built little wooden huts for themselves and they fish for food.

Julia said their hut placement was not planned out well. Termites roam in their residence and coconuts fall from palm trees hitting them in the head while they sleep.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Power to the people

Instead of finishing up a boat race story or tracking down St. John Flag Football League results, I spent my afternoon hanging out with vicious counter-culture folk who refused to take "No" for an answer.

Boss handed me a camera and told me to get over to the Territory Legislature Building to document the different unions protesting outside of the State of the Territory address.

Then it hit me: "Did I go to college for this?"

I wasn't in the mood to re-analyze life decisions so I just grabbed the camera, put on my sunglasses and moseyed toward the action.

'The action' was a group of about 50 unorganized people holding illegible signs doused with thin, colorful markings that represent words. Who the hell set this up? Then I see some lady -- she said she was an elementary school teacher -- in the backseat of a car recklessly writing messages on the signs with markers she stole from her school.

So let me paint a picture here: I saw a school teacher misspelling words on protest signs that called for the government to give the teachers' union a raise. Classic.

"Take a picture of my sign -- I want this on the front page of the Daily News!" they yelled at me over and over again.

"Your wish is my command," I answered. "Whatever you say, I will do. No questions asked."

The response from a goofy white photographer confused many of them so they just fell back on holding up their signs to passerby motorists and asking them to honk their horns in some pathetic sign of unity.

I didn't understand about half the protest messages nor did I care. The news writer assigned to the story tried to explain the different qualms each faction had with the Governor but I lost interest and asked him when he would be done writing so we could go grab some drinks.

I like Governor John P. deJongh. I've interviewed him a handful of times on the phone. Only met him once in person. Any politician that stops to pose for a picture with me during an alcohol-laced chili cookoff is OK in my book.

So I wonder what Tuesday will bring?

Maybe a profanity-riddled phone message from the Interscholastic Athletics Association president ripping one of my stories, or how about a Dominican girl prostituting herself to me with a business card but let's not forget about a drive down a dark street that had been closed late at night because a triple-murder shootout had just taken place a few 100 yards ahead.

It wouldn't surprise me. I've experienced all three of those scenarios in the 10 months I've lived on St. Thomas and worked for the Daily News.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hunting Hunter

So I drove down the road after another successful early-morning mission to my neighborhood laundromat (they played Austin Powers on DVD and it was got more laughs that you would expect).

As I came up upon the intersection to my house, I saw some skinny dog just working its way trough traffic without a worry in the world.

I thought, "Look at that dog, someone is going to hit him with their car because their owner is an idiot."

Then I got closer. Then I realized it was my dog. Sonofabitch.

I yelled her name out like I was saying hello to a friend on the side of the road. She looked right at me and was shocked. I couldn't pull over because I was in the middle of the intersection but I pointed toward our driveway and without hesitation (or checking both sides before crossing), she darted towards the house at a crazy speed. I think she initially knew she was in trouble but didn't really care too much.

That freaking dog is going to be the end of me.

I drove real close to her as she galloped up our long driveway and toward the house. When I pulled up, she came over and licked my face like we were playing a game.

What am I going to do with this dog? While she was dancing around town, my other dog, Sydney, remained in the backyard like a good girl. Sometimes, I feel like they are complete opposites.

Then I thought about how one day, one of them will die leaving her sister alone and miserable.

Oh great. Now I'm in a bad mood. Thanks a lot.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rub it in

At first glance, it appeared Brianna soaked our steaks earlier tonight in some kind of mystery seasoning.

Turns out, she got this bag of unmarked poultry rub from my parents' house in Herndon, Va. Several times over, my parents have tried to get me to take it away since I brought it there in the first place. When you're packing for the Caribbean, so many things never make the final cut: guns, sun block, chicken/steak rub.

My sly mother sneaked it into a box that Brianna shipped to herself from the States. It was backed with Christmas gifts, turtlenecks and this mystery rub.

Then I remember that I bought it off an old college buddy of mine who started up his own little spice company on the side. His name is Josh and he is a professional chef. I'm should he would enjoy the free advertising so check out his web site.

I heard they sold over 200 pounds of the stuff just last year. That's why it stayed inside my mother's kitchen cupboard since 2009. Because it's that good! Like a fine wine, it got better with age.

* * *

Ok. This is hilarious. I just goggled his company for the first time in years and he updated the web site. Please check it out and then click on the link at the bottom where he was featured on some Virginia Public Access television station.

My computer at work doesn't have sound but I didn't need it. The look on Josh's face says it all. That kid is hilarious. Well done, sir.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Flags of the gridiron

The year was 1994 and I was in the eighth grade. Awe yes, I remember it like it was yesterday. Crazy acne, a mouth full of braces and a sweaty P.E. uniform that was washed maybe once a semester.

Every so often I fell victim to flagging. Do you remember the term? Or is it from a regional dialect?

The way I remember it is when some jackass pulls down your pants -- gym shorts were most susceptible -- revealing your adolescence to an audience of 13-year-old girls.

I tell you, it was hard growing up middle-class and white.

* * *

On Friday night, I ventured over to St. John to cover opening night of the St. John Men's Flag Football League. You heard me right.

During the week, I even wrote a preview story. It started like this:

Who needs the NFL playoffs when exciting football action is happening right here at home? Just scrap the pads and add some flags.

Surprisingly, the stands were pretty crowded and there was some talent up there. I mean talent as in good-looking girls who watched from the stands. The action on the field -- not so talented.

Remember, it's flag football. Look at this guy getting run over...

First of all, I saw one of the teams at a nearby bar an hour before the game pounding talent juice. They got off to a fast start (their opponent muffed a snap in the end zone resulting in a safety) but as the game wore on and their buzz wore off, they fell apart and eventually lost.

I felt like an idiot interviewing the winning quarterback after the game.

ME: Wait, let me get this straight, all you guys work at the Westin Hotel? Then why is the team called the Storm?

QB: I don't know.

ME: Can you spell your last name for me?

QB: No. Look, my girlfriend is calling me. I gotta go.

ME: Oh yeah? Which one is she? The one in the blue top over there?

QB: No. That's her. (pointing at a different girl)

ME: I was watching her and her friends wrestle around in the stands before I heard all you guys yelling on the field. Apparently, it was because of the winning touchdown but I wasn't watching so could you...

QB (walking away): Sorry bro, I gotta go.

ME (under my breath): You suck at life.

QB: What? (he pulled a 180 and started to walk back toward me)

ME: Nothing.

QB: Yeah, that's what I thought.

He then turned away again and walked closer and closer into his girlfriend's sweet embrace. His girl was not even good looking. I should have fought him. Better yet, I should have flagged him.

With pants near his ankles and his jock strap revealed, I'm sure I could have got one or two shots in before he knew what had happened. But it was no time for a showdown. I had a hot story on my hands and a weekend deadline loomed.

Pure journalistic genius on this one.

Definitely going to save it for my portfolio and if history is kind to me, it may be included in my personal memoirs. We shall see.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Credit or debit?

You know how those little tasks on life's to-do list always seem to get swept by the wayside? An annoying commercial about getting your credit score checked online stuck out to me the other night.

You know the one with two strong men in black body suits with good credit scores and then there's that short fat guy with a bad score because you never checked and now you can't get a loan to pay off your bookie? Wow. Annoying but effective.

This is the one I used so if you have some free time or if you want to waste some time at work ... but if you're unemployed, don't check it because it may not brighten your day. I don't know. Check it out:

I checked and it made me happy. In the words of Larry David, I did pretty, pretty, pretty good. Much better than I thought. Now I'm not going to tell you the scores. That would be rude. But just like my eye prescription before I got the lasik, my numbers are heady and can not be beat.

So with a good credit score, maybe I should buy a car or a house, huh? Is that how this works? I'd rather buy the final season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD.

Meanwhile, the lone ATM machine inside my neighborhood bank was out of order. Again. I didn't even have to go in there to find out because a line of standing people wrapped around the outside ATM where cars are supposed to drive up to it.

My checking account is with Banco Popular. A very organized and professional outfit from Puerto Rico. Actually, they are the worst. But I do like to brake out the card at bars or at the grocery store. It gives me mad street credit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Put your back into it

My flight to DC was great. My flight back to paradise was a nightmare.

Spirit Air sucks. There's no way around it. Sure, they may have some cheap fare to the islands but that's about it. They charge for carry-on bags (which usually makes up the difference compared to American Airlines and Jet Blue) and they charge for every single thing on the flight and that includes aqua for a man with a sore throat.

So I was headed back to St. Thomas and my flight was leaving Ronald Reagan at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning. Spirit ran a special on that particular flight so everyone and their mother jumped on.

I like to be the last person on the flight. Yeah, I'm that ass hole. The way I look at it, I want to spend the least amount of time possible trapped in some metal missile up in the sky.

As I walked down the center aisle, the very few people who had an open seat next to them actually prayed this 6-foot bastard wouldn't sit next to them. From about 10 feet away, I grabbed a quick gander at my seat. The most overweight person on the flight was sitting bitch to my window seat. Check that, he was super fat. He was muy gordo.

And get this, he rolled his eyes when I gave the innocent point to symbolize the vacant seat next to him was mine. What an asshole.

This guy had body rolls that oozed over the seat railing. It was horrible.

I'm not a touchy person, especially with random fatties, so I literally adjusted my back so I didn't have to come in contact with Lieutenant Big Mac. My spine was crooked as a politician and I held that uncomfortable position for the entire 2 1/2 hour flight to Miami. After we landed, I elbowed Colonel Cottage Cheese so he could wake up from his slumber and get out of my way. When I walked around the Miami terminal and stretched out, I thought I was fine.

Two days later, I woke up with a slight cough and then ZANG!

The pain was so intense, I wanted to collapse on my kitchen floor but my body would not allow it. I sort of slumped on to the top of my living room couch. My dogs started to get concerned after I let out a blood-curdling yelp that was muffled because once again, my body would not allow it.

Somehow, I made my way back to bed where my girlfriend was sleeping.

"I think I'm going to die," I said.

She woke up and didn't think much of it until the next round of back spasms made me punch the wall with one hand and cover my face with the other.

Besides child birth, it was the worse pain I could imagine. I don't have a vagina so I really don't know what that could possibly feel like but it didn't matter. It was horrible.

Thank goodness my girl had a mini pharmacy at her personal disposal and her mother is a certified doctor. For the next few days, I floated in and out of consciousnesses as Brianna kept me hopped up on all types of multi-colored uppers, downers, laughers and everything in between.

"Thanks for the drugs, baby," I said a few days later. "They really helped."

"It was only Ibuprofen -- you're such a whimp," she answered.

It doesn't matter what I ingested. The pain was like nothing I had ever experienced. People at my work became concerned after I called in sick for a third straight day and other people started to call in favors as chiropractors were alerted.

But I couldn't even get out of bed. No joke, Brianna had to help me to the bathroom just so I could piss.

I now know why there's a random metal pole sticking out of the wall in our shower.

Back injuries are pretty messed up. Putting pillows under my knees while I slept became a past time and each time I coughed, it was like someone kicked me in the back and I couldn't kick back because my back was fucked up. It was a cruel joke.

I never did go see a doctor and I'm coming back to life slowly. I haven't ran in over a week and just sitting on an office chair for more than an hour is a challenge.

I hope to be back soon because I want to run in the St. John 8 Tuff Miles road race coming up next month. I covered the event last year for our paper and I vowed to the champion I would be gunning for him in 2011.

He's an international track star. I just like to talk crap.

In retrospect, never fly Spirit Air. It's all their fault.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

High flying

I walked into Jack's Restaurant and Bar on a Thursday night recently and I found an old friend I hadn't seen in a few months.

"Jail?" I asked.

"Nope," Roz responded. "But almost."

Roz was celebrating with a festive table of friends and he quickly let me in on the reason for the Jager shots and sloppy dancing. The next day, Roz was scheduled to fly out of St. Thomas and make his way back to the Middle East -- he called it "the sandbox" -- for a second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

I was amazed at the news and like everyone in the bar that night, I bought him a round of shots.

The next day, I was scurrying through the airport and found a tiny bit of space in the quarantined Spirit Air terminal at King Airport.

Roz sees me and is aghast. "What the hell are you doing here?" he asked.

Well, I was flying home for a quick visit and failed to mention that to him during our celebration the night before.

"I didn't want to steal your thunder last night," I said. "You're going to fight in a war and I just had a craving for Taco Bell that I no longer can ignore."

We look at our plane tickets: Same flight. Cool. Same row. Wow. Exit row. Holy crap. This is getting weird.

We get on the plane after a few beers -- of course the flight was delayed over an hour -- and after everyone had packed onto the full flight, no one sits in between us. That's when the party really started.

Alright. Bare with me here. Roz is a U.S. military service member so free drinks are almost essential. Turns out one of the male flight attendants was gay and how did he put it...

"I play on that team, too," Roz said.

He wasn't joking. These guys start flirting and the free drinks start flowing. I was in the aisle seat and got caught in the crossfire. Little mini bottles of Sky vodka and Mister T's Bold Bloody Mary Mix had me slurring my speech before we even crossed over Cuba.

Great conversations with Roz. Don't Ask, Don't Tell had just been repealed by the Senate and by the end of the flight, this guy had me one step away from joining the Navy. Seriously. I actually was talking about joining the Navy for the next few days but then it wavered. Maybe next time.

It's one cool thing about living on this island. I've never been on an inbound or outbound flight without recognizing someone I know. I've even started to recognize the flight attendants. The same one that was single and ready to mingle with Roz was the same guy on my connecting flight from Miami to DC.

Roz got off in Miami -- he said he was going to blow up South Beach one last time. The next day, he made his way to Dallas and then it was off to the sandbox.

The flight attendant knew I was straight despite my dapper threads and asked if I wanted another bloody. Of course, I obliged but then he said he would now have to charge me.

Damn. Maybe I should have joined the Navy.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Doctor Said I Need A Backiotomy

Oh it's been a while. Indeed.

I have a hilarious story about my back going out on me, drinking free liquor on a plane with a U.S. solider and mass consumption of pain killers. Not in that order though.

And of course, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year and all that jazz...

Listen. Good stuff is coming. But my back hurts and the BCS National Championship is about to kickoff so the blog is getting bumped tonight.

If you have any complaints, take it up with my manager.

Be back soon. XOXO.